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Made In America by Bill Bryson

Made In America (original 1994; edition 1998)

by Bill Bryson

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2,920351,971 (3.81)49
Title:Made In America
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Black Swan (1998), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 624 pages
Collections:Your library

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Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson (1994)


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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
[a:Bill Bryson|7|Bill Bryson|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1189096502p2/7.jpg]'s [b:Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States|10541|Made in America An Informal History of the English Language in the United States|Bill Bryson|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388209927s/10541.jpg|412584] is a little like a road trip with a passenger who is constantly reading Wikipedia entries aloud from his iPhone. There is certainly some interest in learning new information and following connections and links to related information. But reading Wikipedia entries only affords a certain level of depth, and following one link to another does not ensure continuity or logical progression. And so at some point you just want to tell your passenger to be quiet and stop the near-random information flow. This is how I felt about Bryson. The information is usually fascinating, but because it's rapid-fire, with very little logical order or progression, I doubt I'll remember anything but a small percentage of what he relates in the book. Reading Made in the USA, now 20 years after its original publication, really highlighted for me the recent changes in the currency-value of trivia. When a steady stream of information on any topic required library research, and probably a kind of fanaticism about the topic (or about the information-gathering process itself), that information carried a certain weight: "This author is sharing knowledge that I otherwise wouldn't have such quick, easy access to." Now that so many people in the world have the answers to so many questions via a simple Internet search, the value of presentations such as Bryson's has really diminished. This isn't cause for lament, but it gives a different perspective on "general readership" non-fiction books from an earlier era. Bryson's narrative flows out of historical settings, sometimes mentioning language change almost as an afterthought. I could see a book like this being written from the other direction: start with a new word and extrapolate backward to the historical and cultural contexts. Each chapter is very loosely organized around a thematic topic, and the chapters more or less progress from older to newer, chronologically (with many exceptions and diversions). The only part that I found a chore to read was Chapter 16, "The Pursuit of Pleasure: Sport and Play"; I wasn't sure if Bryson would ever stop talking about baseball. Otherwise, the whole book was entertaining. What trivia I can remember from my reading will be very nice to bring up in dinner conversations. As a side note: I would like it if filmmakers would employ a word historian to work on dialogue for historical-period movies. It would be fun if the words were accurate, giving even relatively recent eras the foreignness of speech idioms that they would have had. ( )
  ethnosax | Aug 8, 2014 |
Like all of Bill Bryson's work, a cheeky, good-natured, and ultimately extremely informative romp. ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Aug 1, 2013 |
This ended up being much more of a straightforward history book than I expected. It rambled pleasantly and expansively through American history, pausing frequently to examine origins of common words and expressions.

I was surprised at how clearly Bryson's political views shone through the text, but since those views - liberal, populist - generally agreed with mine, that was a plus in my eyes. Few things are quite so gratifying as reading a book (or even a bumper sticker) that states your own opinion better than you yourself could have.

Denser than [b:A Short History of Nearly Everything|21|A Short History of Nearly Everything|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255682270s/21.jpg|2305997], not quite as funny as [b:A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail|9791|A Walk in the Woods Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1275694125s/9791.jpg|613469]. I enjoyed this book, and learned more than expected to. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I weren't already pretty well versed in American history, but as it stood, quite a bit of this was review for me. Nonetheless, good stuff! ( )
  benjamin.duffy | Jul 28, 2013 |
I'm up to Benjamin Franklin and frankly Ben, I've had enough of you and this book. I usually like Bryson's writing style, but the fruity self-congratulatory tone of this is irritating. Also, I think if you are an American you might be a great deal more interested in the entire of history of America as experienced by European settlers than I am. No 'might' about it, of course you are, its your country. Me, sorry, but I couldn't care less.

Does that sound almost sacrilegious to you? Ask yourself this, what interest do you have in Caribbean history (somewhat, but not entirely, boring) or worse, much worse, Welsh history, since its not exactly a history of a get-up-and-go people who Did Great Things (they liked to sing a lot and annoy the English essentially).

Now I like history, I do, especially books by people like Liza Picard and Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, but they tend to keep politicians out of it. Nothing bores like reading political squabbles, at least to me.

Also, the Indians, in whom I have a major interest as all I know about them is war, ceremonies and their problems with alcohol and success with gambling, are dismissed by Bryson with just a little about their linguistic contribution to American English.

I'm not saying its not a good book, I've never read a bad Bryson one, but its just plain boring to me and life is too short and books too many to bother finishing it. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Although I don’t live in America, it is obvious that they have had a big influence on the English language. Bill Bryson’s ‘Made In America’ explores the history of America and the effects it had on the language. I found the most interesting parts to do with censorship in America, from titbit becoming tidbit, cockroach becoming roach and to the extreme case of political correction which wanted to stop the use of terms like blackeye and blacksmith (but interestingly enough, not blackout). I feel I’ve gained some valuable insight into why American English is different to the commonly used Queens’ English, while getting a history into commonly used terms. Bill Bryson writes in such a way that it makes this book easy to read and at times humorous, which I feel is what you want in a Non Fiction book. ( )
  knowledgelost | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Bill Brysonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the 1940s, a British traveller to Anholt, a small island fifty miles out in the Kattegat straight between Denmark and Sweden, noticed that the island children sang a piece of doggerel that was clearly nonsense to them.
As Jefferson put it: "The new circumstances under which we are placed, call for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects".
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380713810, Paperback)

Readers from Toad Suck, Arkansas, to Idiotsville, Oregon--and everywhere in between--will love Made in America, Bill Bryson's Informal History of the English Language in the United States. It is, in a word, fascinating. After reading this tour de force, it's clear that a nation's language speaks volumes about its true character: you are what you speak. Bryson traces America's history through the language of the time, then goes on to discuss words culled from everyday activities: immigration, eating, shopping, advertising, going to the movies, and others.

Made in America will supply you with interesting facts and cocktail chatter for a year or more. Did you know, for example, that Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" credo has its roots in a West African proverb? Or that actor Walter Matthau's given name is Walter Mattaschanskayasky? Or that the supposedly frigid Puritans--who called themselves "Saints," by the way--had something called a pre-contract, which was a license for premarital sex? Made in America is an excellent discussion of American English, but what makes the book such a treasure is that it offers much, much more.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:46 -0400)

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Traces America's history through language & culture.

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